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Out of Bounds: An Unconventional Weekly American Athletic Conference Preview

This isn’t your grandfather’s weekly conference preview. This is AAC game day outside the lines.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Ok, so Week 1 didn’t exactly go as we AAC folk planned. Unless you are my conference pawdcast cohost, then it went pretty much exactly how you thought it would. Except Tulsa. Nobody foresaw that loss to UC Davis but hats off to the Aggies. Cincy, Memphis and SMU all rolled, UCF gave Knights fans a scare before mounting a Malzahn-worthy comeback against Boise State and USF and Navy struggled as expected. Kind of mad at Rutgers for running up that 61-14 score against Temple but incredibly proud of Tulane for almost beating an overrated Oklahoma squad in Norman. As for Houston and ECU, I’m like a disappointed dad after your bad soccer game.

But it’s a new week – we’ve watched some film, we’ve burned some sage and we’ve replenished our Amethyst crystal stash. Here’s what I am excited for in AAC Week 2, outside the lines.

Bethune-Cookman at UCF

Assistance. First and foremost, UCF has kindly provided fans with a graphic to remind them what color to wear to the game. Saturday’s color for the Knights game against the Wildcats is grey.

UCF Athletics

Also, history. Five former UCF athletic greats – Blake Bortles (football), Afia Charles (track and field), Natalie Land (softball), Josh Sitton (football) and Jermaine Taylor (baseball) will be inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. There is an induction banquet Friday night and the inductees will be honored on the field at halftime.

South Carolina at East Carolina

Attendance. The Pirates have led the AAC in regular season attendance average three times - 2014, 2016 and 2017. ECU fans FLOCK to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, establishing it as one of the conference leaders when it comes to attendance most years. In all, a total of 8,905,466 fans have seen the Pirates in action since 1963, and since the completion of a 7,000-seat expansion project in 2010 (to push capacity to 50,000), the Pirates have drawn 2,634,180 fans.

Since becoming a member of the AAC in 2014, East Carolina leads the league in overall attendance average over a collective six-year period, whichdoes not include 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic attendance limitations. Mike Houston & Co. will absolutely need the noise.

Tulsa at Oklahoma State

Feels. The Hurricanes posted on Twitter Wednesday that it was redshirt junior lineacker Mitchell Kulkin’s birthday and the Jenks, Oklahoma native received the best present of all from head coach Phillip Montgomery – a scholarship. Kulkin played in all nine games last season recording nine tackles, eight solo and a career-high six against Navy and is an integral part of Tulsa’s special teams. Tackling might come in handy this Saturday as Tulsa faces off against Oklahoma State in the Bank of America Turnpike Classic, a series that dates back to 1914.

Florida at South Florida

Broken ground. The University of South Florida broke ground on an indoor practice facility (IPF) on Wednesday. The Bulls project the facility will cost over $20 million dollars and it’s expected to be ready this time next year in preparation for the 2022 season. There was also talk of an on-campus stadium. Perfect timing, given in-state opponent Florida is coming to town this weekend. New faculties and new stadiums draw more players as well as students and grows the program and the school. Jeff Scott gets it.

“When [students] are making decisions where they want to go to school, the ones that want to be a part of a campus that has an on-campus stadium and has gameday on campus, and all the festivities that come with that, they’re choosing that before they come to school,” Coach Scott said. “There’s not another structure that you could build on this campus that will have the transformational effect that an on-campus stadium will.”

Just don’t try to pregame by drinking every time Scott says “campus.”

Morgan State at Tulane

Hospitality. Tulane continues to take up temporary residence in Birmingham, Alabama as the lingering effects of Hurricane Ida continue to plague New Orleans. Morgan State will face the Green Wave at Legion Field Saturday and the people of Birmingham have welcomed Tulane with open arms, even giving them their own game day weather report as seen on Twitter courtesy of Tulane’s incredible SID Tom Symonds.

Murray State at Cincinnati

Sloganeering. It may not work for Scott Frost, but it plays in Cincy. Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder didn’t quite coin the phrase “Code Red,” but the standout signal caller definitely embodies it.

The Bearcats were definitely relentless, explosive and disciplined in their win over Miami Ohio last week and fans can expect more of the same against Murray State this week.

Temple at Akron

Heroes. As in Akron will be honoring its hometown heroes at the game this weekend. Unclear when or in what way but hats off to the Zips for giving props to the people. As for the Owls, they are going to need a hero or two themselves after last week. Look for a big bounce back from head coach Rod Carey as Temple tries to avoid the quicksand – I’m talking big energy, hard hits, lots of points if they can get them. Carey & Co. need to stop the slide…

Air Force at Navy

Honor. This game moved from October 2nd to September 11th in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Air Force football team is honoring the B-52 Stratofortress with the 2021 edition of the Air Power Legacy Series uniform. There will be a moment of silence at 3:24 for those lives lost on 9/11 and during the Global War on Terrorism. there will be a flyover featuring two Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightnings from the “Warlords” of VMFAT-501 and two Boeing F/A-18 Hornets from the “Silver Eagles” of VMFA-115 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.

The names of Naval Academy and Air Force Academy grads that were lost on 9/11 will be scrolled on the videoboard. The Honor the Fallen Heroes Group will be on the field and will be recognized at the 50-yard line. Two families of those lost on 9/11 will be with the group. And during a timeout in the second half, Firefighter Steve Modica, who survived the 9/11 attacks, will be honored. His daughter recently graduated from the Naval Academy and has another daughter who is a senior at the Air Force Academy.

Houston at Rice

Sponsorship. The Bayou Bucket Classic has new sponsorship, H-E-B. The privately held supermarket chain, based in San Antonio, Texas has teamed up with cross-town rivals Houston and Rice to bring quality, service and state spirit to the game. Despite being the two FBS schools in closest proximity to one another, Rice and Houston only first met in football in 1971 at Rice Stadium. Three years later, The Touchdown Club of Houston introduced the distinctive Bayou Bucket trophy to present to the winner. This Saturday marks the 40th edition of the game, the first to be called the “Bayou Bucket Classic presented by H-E-B.

North Texas at SMU

Accolades. SMU’s Tanner Mordecai racked up quite a few of them in last week’s 56-9 win over Abilene Christian. The junior quarterback set a school record and tied the AAC record with seven passing touchdowns, including five in the first half. Mordecai also went a career-best 24-30 for 317 yards, earning him Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week honors. He was also named the first American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week and was a CFPA Honorable Mention National Performer of the Week. The Mustangs will look to keep Mordecai’s momentum going against in-state foe North Texas Saturday.

Memphis at Arkansas State

History. Arkansas State has played Memphis more than any other opponent in school history, and Saturday’s game will mark the 60th all-time meeting between the two schools since 1914. Memphis leads the all-time series 30-23-5 and has won the last two meetings, but A-State has won four of the last seven. Yeah, I know not the most exciting off-field item but should be a fun matchup to watch.